by Roger White
My spidey sense tells me of late that the critters in our attic are not Rocky Raccoon and his pals this time around but creatures far more cunning and insidious: squirrels. Yes, those habitual loungers and loiterers of college campuses and street darters who run straight in front of your car and then suddenly become bewildered as to their destination. That’s right, those squirrels.
Three clues have led me to determine that these little bushy-bottomed, nut-chomping rodents have replaced the raccoons as our most recent non-rent-paying top-floor dwellers: (1) the scratching, nesting, wire-chewing, and scurrying sounds are more lightweight and frenzied (but still as annoying as a Twisted Sister album); (2) that high-pitched chittering and jabbering can be coming only from squirrels—or my mother-in-law (I can’t tell whether the critters are having wild parties or heated family disagreements up there); and (3) they have a spy squirrel who sits on the roof, tipping off the squirrel squatters when it’s safe to come and go.
I’ve gone over every square, round, and triangular inch of our humble abode’s perimeter, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how these tiny little tramps are getting in. I do know, however, that they employ that scout squirrel on our roof. Not unlike a tower guard, scout squirrel sits there keeping an eye on the human enemy. He chatters out signals decipherable only by other squirrels as to our whereabouts.
“Chich-chip-chich-chipchip-cheech!” scout squirrel screams when I near our bedroom window. Two pack members in the grass nod. One of them gives the “OK” sign, and they dart off giggling into the woods.
“Get lost, ya little snitch!” I yell, banging on the window.
Scout squirrel sneers and runs away, chattering. “CHIP-CHICH-CHEEP-CHIP!!” Which sounds much to me like the squirrel version of “Your mother!”
And if you don’t think squirrels and other animals are smart enough to act as spies, think again. I read in the news not too long ago about a vulture that flew into Lebanon from an Israeli nature preserve and was captured on suspicion of spying. No kidding. An Israeli game warden who kept tabs on the bird tracked it to a southern Lebanese village. Then the Israelis started getting reports that the bird was being held by locals who suspected it was a spy because it had Israeli tags and devices. Turns out the vulture was part of a conservation project to restore the raptors in the Middle East and had a GPS transmitter attached to its tail. The poor bird was finally released when the locals were assured it was “not carrying any hostile equipment.”
OK, not a spy but it could have been. Just like the time last year when the Palestinian group Hamas claimed to have captured an Israeli dolphin equipped with spying devices. They knew it was an Israeli dolphin because of the waterproof yarmulke on its head. All right, I made up that part. The Israelis denied that the animal was sniffing around Palestinian waters on porpoise. (Insert groan here, if you will.)
But get this, declassified documents from the 1960s revealed the CIA’s attempt to wire a cat as a listening device, using its tail as the antenna. True story! The project, dubbed “Acoustic Kitty,” was abandoned after the cat was sent into a park to eavesdrop on purported bad guys but was run over by a taxi before it could get into position.
And then there’s this: In 2007, Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency reported that they had broken up a British squirrel spying ring. Fourteen squirrels were reportedly captured by intelligence officers in the border region of Iran, each allegedly sporting listening devices. The British Foreign Office reacted characteristically, stating “The story is nuts.”
Aha! I would bet good money that our home’s scout squirrel is a surviving member of that British squirrel spying ring! Now that I think about it, his chattering has a certain accent to it, and his teeth, ooh….
Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.